The prostate gland is part of a man's reproductive system. It makes some of the fluid for semen. The prostate is located just below the bladder and is about the size of a walnut. The urethra (the tube that carries urine away from the bladder) runs through it.
Prostatitis is inflammation or infection of the prostate. It's the most common prostate problem in men younger than 50, but it can occur at any age. It can be painful and frustrating, but it does not lead to prostate cancer.
If you have symptoms that suggest prostatitis, be sure to see your doctor. It can't always be cured, but treatment can often help you manage the symptoms and feel better.
What are the symptoms of prostatitis?
The urethra runs through the prostate gland. This means that inflammation of the prostate can cause problems with urination. Symptoms will depend on the type of prostatitis a man has. Some common symptoms include:
- Burning or pain during urination
- Difficulty with urination
- Weak urine stream
- A feeling that the bladder is not empty
- Waking at night to urinate
- Pain in the groin, genitals, or low back, which can make it painful to ejaculate, have a bowel movement, or even sit down
What are the types and causes of prostatitis?
- Acute bacterial prostatitis is the least common form of prostatitis and requires immediate treatment. Typically, it strikes suddenly and causes fever and chills in addition to the common symptoms associated with prostatitis.
- Chronic bacterial prostatitis comes on more slowly and doesn't usually cause fever and chills. This type may come and go over time.
- Chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome occurs in about 9 out of 10 cases and no clear cause can be found. Doctors think the causes may include organisms other than bacteria, pelvic nerve or muscle problems, or problems with the structure of the prostate, bladder, or urethra. Others think it may be caused by a problem with the immune system.
- Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis doesn't cause symptoms but infection-fighting cells are found in the prostate fluid and semen. Doctors usually find this type when looking for causes of infertility or testing for prostate cancer.
How is it diagnosed?
A doctor will ask about your symptoms and do a digital rectal exam. For this test, the doctor puts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel whether the prostate is swollen.
A doctor will also do urine tests and blood tests. These can help identify what type of prostatitis it is. They can also help rule out other things that could be causing the symptoms.
In some cases, a doctor may want to do an ultrasound or another type of imaging test. These tests are done to check the condition of the prostate, urethra, and bladder.
How is prostatitis treated?
Prostatitis caused by bacteria is treated with antibiotics.
- If you have an acute infection, you may take antibiotics for a few weeks. You might need to be treated in the hospital if you're very sick.
- You may take antibiotics for several weeks or months if you have a chronic bacterial infection. If the infection doesn't clear up or it comes back, you may need to stay on a low dose of antibiotics.
Your doctor may start you on antibiotics even if your tests didn't show any bacteria. Antibiotics sometimes help men who have chronic pelvic pain syndrome.
Chronic pelvic pain syndrome can be hard to treat since the cause is not known. It may respond best to a combination of treatments. Medication, such as an alpha-blocker, may be prescribed for men who have trouble passing their urine.
Your doctor might also suggest that you try:
- An over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). Always read product labels and follow all directions.
- Sitting in a warm bath to relax your muscles.
- Drinking plenty of water.
- Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods, which can irritate your bladder.
Created on 03/03/2008
Updated on 08/30/2011
- National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Prostatitis: disorders of the prostate.
- Prostatitis Foundation. Prostatitis: understanding and treating inflammation of the prostate.